Briefing on ‘honour’ based violence and the violence against women and girls action plan By the Iranian

and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation ‘Honour’ based violence (herein HBV) and the strategic narrative The coalition government’s Call to End Violence against Women and Girls (25 Nov 2010) states: We need to ensure that there is effective action to prevent (HBV) from happening and we need to encourage greater reporting of these crimes. We recognise that not all women and girls want to take action through the criminal justice system; but if they have been affected by this type of abuse it is important that they are able to seek the support which is most appropriate to them. This could be from a hospital, a school, the police, a housing service, a voluntary agency or from family and friends. The Call goes on to pledge that the government will: Continue to raise awareness of HBV and ensure victims are aware of their rights and the support available to them. For example, we will develop a resource pack about forms of HBV for new and recent entrants to the United Kingdom to assist them in understanding their rights here and signpost them to support services. IKWRO is keen to understand what is meant by ‘raise awareness’ and to ascertain who the target of awareness raising activities would be. While it is useful to ensure that victims understand their rights and know what help is available, efforts are also needed to improve the support and protection available to victims of HBV. 1. HBV training for staff in statutory bodies IKWRO encounters bad practice among statutory agencies on an unacceptably regular basis. We are now cataloguing all incidents and recent examples include: Several police officers breached guidelines by turning away HBV victims, approaching their families or spouses and disclosing details of their whereabouts to their abusers. A police interpreter disclosed details of an HBV case to the community. When we raised this, the police dismissed our fears that this posed a risk to the victim’s safety. Social workers returned a 16 year old girl at high risk of forced marriage to her father, who then carried out his plans. The girl ran away and social services do not know where she is. A nurse admitted a 20 year old woman’s family to see her after she had given birth arguing that they had ‘a right to see their daughter’. The woman had kept her pregnancy from them and we had advised the hospital not to admit the family because of the risk of HBV. A number of housing authorities refused to help clients who had had to leave home because of HBV, arguing that they were ‘voluntarily homeless’. Effective training on HBV must be provided to these bodies to enable their staff to identify and respond to HBV cases. Without this, activities which target women will have a limited impact. The action plan must address this issue in order to ensure that victims of HBV get the help they need. 2. Improved data collection

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The Home Office estimates that there are 12 ‘honour’ killings per year in the UK although it is unclear where that figure comes from. Certainly, the number of women who suffer other forms of HBV is much higher. From April to October 2009 the police recorded 211 ‘honour’ based incidents in London alone, 129 of which were crimes. While all police forces are supposed to flag ‘honour’ related incidents in their recording systems, in 2010 several were still not doing this, including Gloucestershire, West Mercia and Cheshire Police Forces. There is a need for a more strategic approach to national data collection on the incidence of HBV. Understanding the scale of the problem and pinpointing the worst affected areas are vital to delivering an effective response. 3. Ensuring that all government bodies are responding appropriately In addition to low awareness of HBV among some public sector staff, policy and practice within some government departments is also impeding the response to HBV. For example, many local authorities will only rehouse a woman when she can show evidence of physical violence. In HBV cases threats, psychological violence and emotional abuse are often a precursor to murder, forced suicide or forced marriage. Where these forms of violence occur the victim should be moved immediately in order to ensure her safety. The current policy of only recognising physical violence makes this difficult. It is vital that the Department for Communities and Local Government address this issue as part of the cross-government response to HBV. 4. Leadership There is commitment to tackling HBV within government, particularly in the Violent and Youth Crime Prevention Unit and the Forced Marriage Unit. ACPO has also made significant progress in this area since the introduction of their ‘Honour’ based violence strategy in 2008. However, the HBV response would benefit from a more clearly defined leadership and we strongly recommend the creation of an HBV Coordinator post within government, on a par with the FGM Coordinator who sits within the FCO. A coordinator could lead on tackling the issues highlighted above, complimenting the efforts of existing government bodies and staff. We understand the difficulty of arguing for new posts in the current political climate, but by introducing a coordinator role the government will be able to adopt a more focussed and strategic approach to HBV which will pay for itself in the long term. About the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation IKWRO is a registered charity which provides advice, support, referrals and advocacy to Middle Eastern women and girls living in the UK who are facing ‘honour’ based violence and other forms of abuse. We offer help in Farsi, Kurdish, Dari, Arabic and Turkish. As well as supporting women directly, we advise other agencies on specific cases and provide training for those working in public and voluntary organisations to enable them to better understand and respond to the issues facing our clients.

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